Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Natural learning

We enjoyed a couple of two-stage art projects at the weekend, which is a first for us as Harry has normally not been interested in completing things over different days. The octopus idea is courtesy of Mister Maker and we did the painting one day and the cutting and sticking the next. Harry correctly informed me that I needed to cut two more tentacles as he only had six and he sorted the big eyes and small eyes ready to stick on

Harry had also mixed some orange paint and used it to paint white card which he said was a burning fire. This started an impromptu family rendition of the 'London's Burning' song (which I vaguely remembered from my school days). We discussed the Great Fire of London and why people used to be so scared of fire when they lived in wooden houses. Stuart showed Harry some major London structures including The Shard and Tower Bridge on the computer and then we cut out some black foam to represent buildings on his painting

We were all worn out after getting cold at our home ed Washington Wetland Centre meeting today so Harry and I set about colouring some Mike the Knight pictures (a cbeebies programme in case anyone is not stuck with that channel for their pre-schoolers). Whilst colouring Mr Blacksmith, we discussed what a blacksmith does and read a section of Richard Scarry's 'What do people do all day?" which contains a blacksmith. We also coloured some Vikings and this led to a discussion of their dragon boats and we read our Usborne "See Inside Ships" book.

So from some lovely relaxed family art time, we have covered what I guess would count as several areas of the school curriculum. I love the fact that Harry doesn't switch off as he is usually doing something he is interested in - natural learning at its best!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Simple pleasures

We have found a lot of simple pleasures in the house this week. Harry spent an entire 15 minutes blowing bubbles into milkshake, leaving me to drink my tea while still hot

We received a wide packaging tube with some prints in, which has been used to roll things down, chat into and as an extra long arm!

A lot of lego building has been going on

I love lego! It really suits Harry's creative and imaginative style of free play. In the past year he has used it for colour matching, height comparison, problem solving by fitting different sizes of bricks into containers, games involving planting, harvesting and delivering vegetables and now he actually creates 'things', from rockets (with boosters!) to animal houses. I think it literally has unlimited possibilities and everything we do with it seems to be valuable in some way. I am so pleased we spend so much of our time on the floor together!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Grown up dressing

I have bought this dress to wear to a post-wedding 'hen night' on Saturday! I am in no doubt I will not look as elegant as the picture but it is a nice dress and I think I will certainly feel smarter and more grown up than in my usual mummy uniform! I haven't bought anything new for a long time and was a bit overwhelmed with the task when I walked into John Lewis on Tuesday at 6.45pm, but even managed to find a bargain as this was in the Coast sale for £39 :-)

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Happy Birthday Peter!

Peter had his first birthday today!  

The day didn't start in the most relaxing way, with a 5.40am wet bed for Harry meaning both boys were awake in our bed, one driving a combine harvester over us and one trying to lever his fingers into our mouths while we tried in vain to ignore it and go back to sleep! Those are the moments the parenting books never mention.

It has improved since then thankfully (although the start of the day feels like an age ago!) and Peter has enjoyed a fantastic day with Stuart's family visiting too.

We made a batch of playdoh first thing and Harry created some birthday cakes for Peter

Then onto Adventurelands with Harry and Peter's cousins

Peter has enjoyed exploring his presents

And eating some of his truck birthday cake

It has been a lovely day. Peter is now fast asleep and I am sitting down for the first time.

Happy Birthday baby boy, we love you so much!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Spring planning and indoor times

I am looking forward to Spring so much! I have been very excited tonight to start compiling a list of creative and messy activities we will be able to do and to call it 'education planning'. Brilliant!

It has been a quiet couple of days due to the boys being generally under the weather. We have enjoyed the slow down in pace though and kept busy with a variety of indoor activities:

Baking oat cookies - Harry was very independent and spooned, measured, mixed and rolled

Reading eggs with corresponding printed worksheets. We have been practicing pencil grip for letter tracing and doing some word matching puzzles relating to the same letters

Some lovely interaction between Harry and Peter involving racing/chasing each other around the furniture (and it didn't end in tears!)

Painting - you can see that Peter didn't think too much of it! I hope he does love arts and crafts as much as Harry and he will have plenty of opportunities to find out this year.

And lots and lots of colouring! Harry has phases of being very involved in colouring books and this seems to be one. He is much more creative with the colours than the last phase about six months ago and almost stays in the lines sometimes!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Wildfowl, Wetlands and Flamingos!

We have had a fabulous home ed day at the Washington Wetland Centre. We headed over to the feeding area to find an escaped flamingo causing a stir with the regular inhabitants of the pond! Harry loved feeding the regulars then watching the (failed) attempts at capturing the flamingo.

We all enjoyed playing in the indoor discovery room.

Harry did some brass rubbings and colouring. We read books about the creatures in a coral reef and the migration of snow geese. We touched a turtle shell and talked about why they are endangered. Harry is starting to ask difficult questions like that now, I didn't really expect it this soon! At bedtime he asked me what a bullet is (we were talking about the Japanese bullet train) but thankfully did not pursue further when I said it is the thing fired from a gun. I had better get used to difficult conversations I guess as there will be plenty to follow! 

Best of all, the children all played together indoors and out and had a lovely time! I love seeing busy heads bent together as they focus on something (in this case the ice!)

We are planning to make a regular group visit here on a Tuesday and I think it will be wonderful. It is a lovely place with a variety of spaces and is a great window on lots of aspects of the changing seasons. Meeting our home ed group has got me thinking about planning our activities for the next few months so I am excited about that too. I wish there were more hours in the day (or perhaps just more sleep at night!).

Monday, 16 January 2012

Frosty days

First things first - I lost at scrabble, again! Only by 20 points though so the gloating rights weren't entirely exercised by Stuart.

It is blooming cold at the moment with a heavy frost. I wish it had been like this at Christmas as it might have actually felt festive then! We had a good trip out to our playground yesterday. Peter stayed wrapped up nice and warm surveying the action:

Harry enjoyed having the playground to himself for some slalom bike riding around the equipment:

Home for a frosty sledge ride on the grass - they both loved it, although Peter only lasted one circle round as Harry requested he be dropped off at the 'station' so the sledge could go faster! 

Harry helped to cut pears for a crumble when we had warmed up

We have had a lovely visit from my mum today, who came bearing curtains she had made for Peter (thanks mum!)

Harry enjoyed some one-on-one time with Granny doing glueing, making fans and creating big winds and small winds with them. It is so nice to see him engaging for an extended period with someone other than me. He doesn't often have the opportunity but he participates fully when it does come. 

All in all a very lovely past few days! 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Let battle (re) commence!

This is the grown up plan at our house tonight!

It has been a while and I fear that my intellectual capabilities have waned somewhat but I am looking forward to a challenge. We are dorky (is that even a word anymore?) enough to have kept scores for the past 32 games we have played each other so we shall be continuing that list. Unfortunately, as people may be wondering, I am ashamed to admit that Stuart is 19-13 up so I have some ground to make up!

I resolved this year that I will spend a bit more time doing things for me, which means I need to make the time as there is not much going spare in our lives at the moment, as anyone who has parented two small children full time knows! But some evenings together are part of that (excluding the ones spent on separate computers), together with reading more books and using my myriad of body creams! I think I have kept my expectations reasonable and hopefully will achieve something towards feeling like Hayley, not just Mummy. 

Thursday, 12 January 2012


Harry seems to have been exercising some creative building urges today. He created his first 'own design' Hama bead pattern (he usually follows a picture) at 7am this morning, which I was pretty impressed with - an almost symmetrical butterfly! We have only recently got into Hama beads - I love the peaceful play element and Harry enjoys creative play - they also satisfy Harry's urge to sort and gather small objects. We mainly use the maxi beads for 3 years plus, although we do have some small ones and Harry can manage them, but I prefer to clean up the large ones, especially after Peter has been through scattering them in all directions!

It was then onto the Centre for Life to meet some of our home ed friends. We arrived early and spent half an hour building with the foam blocks. Harry created this pattern:

Which then became the base for this creation, which Harry was trying to protect from Peter's attentions:

After seeing Peter off, Harry climbed up and over the 'mountain' - he can always find something to climb!

We met our friends, had a lovely play together and headed home. One of our best visits to Centre for Life - Harry was very interested in a new dolls house which was as tall as him and there was a good activity table with various objects to examine through magnifying glasses. Peter loves it there now that he can explore everything too and it is essential for me to have places I can keep both of them happy. We seem to be limited to indoor spaces to achieve that at the moment - I am sure once Spring arrives and Peter can walk well that daily outdoor time that we can all enjoy will re-start.

A final building session at home saw us playing an hour long coal delivery game using the mobile coal hopper that Harry had built:

And Peter caused general all round amusement when he discovered that the table cover comes off - I don't think this will be the first time!

Phew, we have crammed a lot into today and I am feeling it, but I love days like this! There is always something new to amaze me in the way they explore and learn and there has been a lot of skill building too recently. Peter is insatiable at the moment - he is pushing, pulling, putting in, taking out, banging and copying noises. Harry is advancing all the time, saying creative and logical things, being much more stable in his temprement and enjoying such a wide variety of activities. I can't wait to see more of the same this year.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Is it Spring?

It certainly felt like it today as we sat on the ground at Freeman Park playing with the bark chippings..... yes, in January!! Last year around the first week of the year we had a thick covering of snow and this was the type of play we were doing:

I am so pleased we headed outdoors. Peter had a great time in the swings, on the roundabout and the slide.

There were workmen removing the benches with circular saws and then transporting them away, which kept Harry's attention for a while, until he spotted an attractive looking patch of mud and spent the last half an hour "harvesting potatoes", which involved balling mud to represent the potatoes and covering a manhole cover with them.

Peter's nap time brought out the art materials and Harry did some pastel drawings - he is working on a snail in the picture, which turned out nicely, even after the furious blending he does after adding each colour (he informs me he likes that part!).

My positivity about today is in no small part down to the fact that Peter had a better than usual night in terms of sleep (perhaps my positive post about him yesterday worked some magic!). Waking at 11.30pm and 3.50am almost counts as a full night sleep in my state of permanent sleep deprivation and I could certainly feel it throughout the day. I will try not to get my hopes for a repeat tonight.....

Sunday, 8 January 2012

The start of walking?

I thought it would be nice for a change to highlight the baby of the family! He is so often overlooked as he potters around the sidelines, participates in our activities and explores his still new world but life without him is unimaginable now!

Peter took his first two steps unaided today! Stuart and I saw it and cheered, which left Harry rather perplexed, but I don't think Peter noticed and the rest of the day continued as normal. His balance seems to have improved significantly this week so he stands a good chance of some more walking before his first birthday in two weeks. Peter has shown a lot of interest in playing today - driving trains on the track, pushing a car around and posting creatures down the Octopod chute. 

Peter takes such an interest in everything Harry does and Harry is generally kind, which gives me a lot of hope for their future relationship. Harry is very into giving "thumbs up" at the moment and loves it when Peter laughs hysterically at it. None of the achievements mentioned have, however, been caught on camera so I shall leave a bubbly bath shot from tonight - Peter stands by the side of the bath stamping on the floor with excitement at getting in and I think his face shows how much he loves it!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Butcher, Baker, Candlestick Maker?

Or in our case this week - Gardener, Marine Biologist or Chef?

Harry has been involved in one of his favourite weekend pastimes of digging/raking/mowing/cutting (delete as appropriate) in the front garden, whilst having access to the garage with Stuart. Todays activity seemed to be raking dead grass which was used to bury his scooter, followed by using the hoe to uncover it again. A future gardener perhaps?

Peter got in on the garden action today too and enjoyed the car and tent, although sucking the steering wheel does not quite suggest racing driver qualities :-)

I often mull over what future life and career awaits my children and there is a lot of scope for mulling as the possibilities are definitely more extensive than I can even comprehend. I think all we can do is expose them to as many varied experiences as possible to establish their skills/interests and help them to reach their potential. It kind of whirls my mind thinking of them even ten years older so it is very difficult to imagine them as fully grown men with a home away from us! 

Just this week Harry and I were watching Great Barrier Reef on iplayer and he said that he would like to know everything about the sea, that there are lots of different seas and he could dive in them all! I am not sure our holiday plans cover all the oceans of the world but that is a new theme he has shown an interest in. It is the first time we have watched an "adult" programme together and I am glad we did as he was enthralled and has mentioned parts of it several times since.

I have been busy and productive today too, filling the freezer with some much needed food for future meals. I was considering what to create with some pastry and Harry was very enthusiastic in suggesting a layer of pesto followed by a layer of tomato sauce, which is not something I have made before but now I have - thank for the idea Harry! Whether he will eat it is another matter...

Freezer is brimming with lamb koftas, minestrone, parsnip soup, burgers, meatballs and the aforementioned pastry creations!

My cooking energy is partly due to the fact that my weekend can only start well when it starts sitting child-free for two hours at the hairdresser - coffee, magazines, shiny hair and no small people climbing or drooling on you. I left feeling more ready to embrace the drool awaiting me at home!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

A full day

Full is the word, thankfully in a good way! Peter started the day with a cold so was back in bed early, which left Harry and I some nice free time to do some activities in a Postman Pat book which were far too easy as Harry had pointed out the answer before I even finished the question, but he seemed to enjoy it! We managed a quick game of animal dominoes too before a flurry of emails took us to the Washington Wetland Centre with our home ed friends.

Well it wasn't exactly pleasant outdoors today, as lorries overturned and trees uprooted not too far North from us, so we managed to spend most of the visit in the indoor discovery room and cafe, with a brief interlude spent shouting over the wind and stopping any children blowing away in the play area. Harry, as usual, loved the outdoor element and headed straight for the water play, where his waterproof trousers held their own again. I think Togz waterproofs are going to be part of our life for a long time!

It has been nice to get back into our routine today now that Stuart is back at work and Christmas is fully behind us and we spent the afternoon playing at home. The boys were given some puppets for Christmas and Harry took the part of The Three Little Pigs while I voiced the big bad wolf. This was the ensemble Harry created for our stories, after he remembered that Little Red Riding Hood involved a wolf too:

The lego man woodcutter, however, proved to be rather a wimp in Harry's version of the story and the wolf ate him, along with grandma and Little Red Riding Hood, followed by a variety of "heroes" who tried to stop the wolf. We ended with a basket full of toys to represent the wolf's full tummy! I love 3 year old thinking!

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Hello 2012

HELLO 2012!

We have just returned from Lancaster visiting Stuart's family. It was the usual adventure of trying to see everyone, get us all enough sleep and making sure Harry ate something other than chocolate but it was great fun. The boys had a lovely time, especially playing with their cousins. It is so nice to see Harry now running off to play and hold his own with a 6 and 8 year old! Harry and Peter have 4 great-grandparents too, who love to see them.

We are all just about recovered from the travelling and broken sleep, as we welcome the new year. Harry has been very interested in the change, although he doesn't quite comprehend it. We have spent a lovely afternoon with some of our NCT group, where the children all had a great time playing, uninterrupted by photo calls or sit down meals, a welcome break from the family Christmas festivities.

And so what of the old year? 2011 was notably special for bringing us our precious second baby son, Peter. We have learned to live together as a family of 4 and to share our time and attention with a new and demanding family member. We have had some turbulent moments, where we have all been suffering from sleep deprivation, times when the volume of things to do was just overwhelming and times when the sharing became difficult. But we are here at the end of the year, and we survived, as a family! We have seen the wonder of a tiny baby grow and reach out to us, sit, crawl and laugh at being tickled and chased. We have seen our toddler turn into a child who has shown patience, resilience, love for his brother and ever increasing amounts of independence and creative thinking.

We are looking forward to the new year, whatever challenges it may bring. I am almost certain it will be easier, allowing more fun and more equally shared attention and time. I am excited about continuing our home education journey and excited for Harry and Peter as they will enjoy increasing interaction. Stuart and I may even get a few hours on our own, stranger things have happened! We are ready for it all!